You would not be qualified for the rank you already hold

This story is not directly related to stressed or critical trades, but does highlight how difficult it can be for a CF member to transfer from the Reserves to the Regular Force.  It is instructive to note that the officer in question still serves Her Majesty—but now as an Australian, not a Canadian.

Assistant Deputy Minister for Human Resources (Military) Vice-Admiral Greg Jarvis told the Committee there appears to be something off in the system, testifying:

“I do acknowledge that currently we are averaging, on a component transfer, about 12 months. Our goal is to reduce that to 90 days.”

It takes – on average – a year to go from one part of the Canadian Forces to another part. Reducing that process by three-quarters is a good goal, but one that would represent a sea change.

On March 8, 2005, the Commanding Officer of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, a militia unit, testified “… it is easier to join the Australian army online than it is to transfer into the regular army here, and you get a higher equivalency, and quicker.”[140] Our jaws dropped open. His claim seemed far-fetched. But wait . . . this story is even longer, but then, it takes a long time to get to Australia.

In January 2004, a Canadian Army Reserve Lieutenant-Colonel, serving in the Armoured Corps, resigned from the Canadian Forces and enrolled in the Australian Army. He now holds the rank of Major. In his sixteen years of Canadian service, most of which was on full-time duty, he worked in a wide variety of capacities, including a tour as an armoured troop leader in Bosnia, and as the lone Canadian liaison officer in Baghdad, in 2003.

Prior to leaving Canada, this man twice attempted to transfer from the Army Reserve to the Regular Force. The first time, in 1998, he was a 31-year old a four year Captain, having just completed an operational tour of duty in Bosnia. He followed all the rules and applied through a local Recruiting Centre. He had positive letters of reference from senior serving and retired General officers. He heard nothing for four months. He finally badgered the Recruiting Centre for a response. He was told that his file had been closed because he did not have enough education.

According to a clerk at the recruiting office, the Captain needed another mathematics course to join the Canadian Forces as an officer (which he already was in the Reserves) and furthermore – should he ever resign – he wouldn’t be educationally qualified to re-enroll in the Reserves as an Officer Cadet.

So he enrolled in the Canadian University Program to upgrade his education. After a few years of part-time studies towards a BA degree he had also obtained the required mathematics course. In 2001, he once again requested a transfer from the Reserves to the Regular Force.

Now a 34-year old Major, this Canadian Army Reserve officer contacted both the Recruiting Centre (for processing), the Director of Army Training (to verify qualification equivalencies), and both the Director of Armour and the Armoured Officer Career Advisor (for details on initial postings and career prospects).

To no avail. The Recruiting Centre informed him that while he was at school the Canadian Forces had raised the academic bar even higher.  A full degree was now required. Further, he was told that even with a degree, he would not be assigned to a regiment or other posting until he had completed second-language training.

The Director of Army Training insisted that, despite the fact that he had commanded a Regular Force troop on operations, the Major’s Reserve qualifications were insufficient. Although he would be granted an equivalency for Basic Officer Training, he would have to complete Regular Force Armoured officer training and qualify on the current Regular Force armoured vehicles (Leopard tank and Coyote surveillance vehicle) before being accepted for regular duty.

Furthermore, the Director of Armour and the Career Advisor told him that it would be unlikely that he would ever reach the rank of Major in the Regular Force.

If he were eventually accepted into the Regular Force, they said, he would likely serve in positions such as a unit Transportation Officer or equivalents, not in operational combat command roles. They added that despite his “Outstanding” evaluation reports from senior Regular Force officers and his operational experience, he probably couldn’t compete. It was unlikely he would be considered for one of the “top three” Captain’s positions in the unit that are usually a stepping stone to promotion.

In 2003, the Army Reserve Major, still only 35, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He was sent as the sole CF representative to V Corps (US) in Baghdad. His performance was good enough to represent Canada in a large U.S. Army formation conducting combat operations in a war-fighting theatre of operations. But it wasn’t sufficient to qualify him as an officer in the Canadian Regular Force Army.

He then successfully negotiated a transfer to the Armoured Corps of the Australian Regular Army, where he began his new career in January 2005, with the rank of Major. In January, 2006 he will assume the duties of Regimental Second-in-Command of an Australian Regular Force Armoured Corps regiment.

The Canadian Forces will continue to cry out for good people in the years to come. But sometimes they seem to be crying with their eyes closed.

—  “Wounded: Canada’s Military and the Legacy of Neglect“, An Interim Report by the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, September 2005

In 2005 it took, on average, a year to go from the Reserves to the Regular Force.  One hopes that in the intervening four years, the CF has gone some way toward remedying that situation

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